Q&A: Greg Gleason headlines ‘Masters of Illusion’

Rehearsals are underway for the new “Masters of Illusion” magic show set to open Dec. 6 at Bally’s, reviving the shuttered ”Jubilee” theater vacant since the dancers left there after a near 35-year run in February 2016. The new production is America’s largest touring magic show and comes from the hit CW television series that stars the world’s greatest award-winning magicians.

Producers claim the magic created live on stage will feature jaw-dropping grand illusions and with 21st century trickery unlike anything we’ve seen before. They claim that the experience will feature fantasy, fervor and flair that just can’t be done. Or, can it? In the six years the “Masters of Illusion” series has been on CW TV network over 100 million American viewers and fans in 126 different worldwide countries have witnessed the unbelievable, unexplained.

The cast will feature Chris Randall, Farrell Dillon, Jason Bird and Las Vegas star Tommy Wind, who has his own magic theater adjoining the MGM Grand. Greg Gleason of Las Vegas will headline the show, which has an initial six-month residency with renewable options .

Greg has headlined the Las Vegas Strip at both The Venetian and MGM with over 9,000 performances of “Embrace the Mystery” and “The Wizard’s Secrets” and starred in eight national tours of “Masters of Illusion.” It was a television special by the late magician Doug Henning that inspired him to take up the craft. As a 13-year-old practicing magic in his home he went on to be named Illusionist of the Year by the International Magician’s Society.

Here’s Gregg’s split woman zig zag illusion:

And, here’s his amazing levitation sequence:

Q: With Criss Angel, David Copperfield, Mat Franco, David Goldrake, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Raja & Jarrett, Murray Sawchuck, Xavier Mortimer all holding down residency shows here I just had to ask Greg how “Masters of Illusion” will be set apart from its competitors.

A: All the other ones are mainly just one magician performing the show, and this is the top picks from the TV show that’s been running for the last four years, and a lot of the top illusions that have appeared on that show in the last four years, plus a lot of special one that are being specially created just for the show.

Here’s the YouTube video of Greg and Farrell Dillon mixing and matching their assistants, Stacey and Erika cut in half by saws simultaneously:

Q: Let’s talk about two things that you have done on the TV show that are advancing the cause of magic. First, is the sawing through the body of the girl. As wood breaks, and then you show that the blade went right through, rather than pulling it out to show it was a blade. She has to get up so that you can get it off of her. The other one is: the girl in eight pieces in the box, and the body parts zig-zag left and right. Both of those seem to be advances of previous illusions. Do you agree?

A: Exactly. And, they are. The one where I cut the girl into eight pieces, I actually debuted that illusion in 2002 at my show at The Venetian. That was the first time for that to actually appear in a show. The one where I use a 36-inch buzz saw that cuts the wood in half and goes right through her body is an updated version of a classic. Gabe and Harry Blackstone Jr. did in their Broadway show, and did on the road. It’s a classic piece that’s just been brought up to date with a real blade going right through her. We take a lot of precautions because that is a real blade and will cut through any piece of wood. The magic is getting the person not to move. There’s a lot of precautions on that. We rehearse that a lot to make sure that looks exactly right.

Q: Now Doug Henning was a remarkable magician with incredible spiritual beliefs that were magical. I featured him on “Lifestyles” back in the day. How was he your inspiration?

A: I was in junior high when he started on Broadway. And, then I was watching his TV specials. I had been exposed to magic a little bit, but then when I saw him I could really relate to him. He wasn’t a magician in a top hat and tails running around. He brought it up to date because magic was pretty much dead at that point. It was still done in night clubs and things like that, but it wasn’t mainstream like it was during the Houdini days, during the golden age of magic in the 1920s, and the 1930s, and it had just disappeared. And all of a sudden, 1975 Doug’s special just brought it right back to mainstream and made it cool again. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

I moved out here to Las Vegas in 1993 when the MGM opened. (I debuted) a show called “Wizard Secrets.” It was a specially built theater in the MGM for a magic show. Magic has had its ups and downs, and I think it’s right back at the top again. Criss has his show, doing great over at The Luxor; and David Copperfield is doing great at the MGM. David Goldrake is over at The Tropicana; and Matt King has been going strong; and Nathan Burton, and Raja just opened at The Stratosphere.

When I moved here in the 1990s,magic was at its peak, and I think it quieted down for a while. Now, I think it’s climbed right back up again. Living in Las Vegas with all the magic shows we kind of feel a little jaded about it. We’ve seen it all. But here’s what I see. I’ve been touring with “Masters of Illusion.” I’ve done their last nine national tours, and some of their international tours. What amazes me are the audiences — when we’re touring, when we’re in Florida, Texas, the Midwest or even in New York and Connecticut, “Masters of Illusion” sells out every theater we go to. And, what’s amazing is it’s all ages. It’s grandparents all the way down to grand kids.

It’s an entertainment where David Copperfield had the market when he was traveling all over the world, constantly touring. But since he set up residency at the MGM it just left a huge void for the last 15 years. “The Illusionists” have been touring, and our “Masters of Illusion,” too, and both groups have been selling out everywhere because it’s just great family entertainment. The touring show of “Masters” will continue while we are in residency here.

The public all across the world loves magic. Another Vegas magician, Jeff McBride, and I just came back from our own tour called “Las Vegas Magic Stars” in Asia, and we were selling out everywhere in arenas. We were doing shows in Shenzhen — a project Jeff and I had been working on for almost three years, and it’s similar to “Masters of Illusion” or “The Illusionists,” but we call it “The Las Vegas Magic Stars.” That way they knew exactly what they were getting. Jeff’s a great magician and a great teacher and a really good friend. We had a great time over there. Despite On Demand TV and YouTube, seeing it live is completely different. People are still coming out. Every time we’re doing shows on the road we’re selling out.

Q: From an entertainer’s viewpoint, when you perform a piece of magic, in a sense you’re doing it by rote. But is there wonder for you as the audience opens its mouth in disbelief?

A: All the time. And you know, going back to Doug Henning, he sensed that wonder all the time. There are some illusions that I do and it’s just amazing to watch the audience’s reaction because — again when you see it on TV you go, “Oh, that could be trick photography, that could be something else.” But when you see it live it is amazing to see the wonder on everyone’s face. And it might not even be a big illusion, it might be something small and just a really good story that goes along with the smaller piece that has an emotional touch that people in the audience can really relate to.

Q: What is it about magic for you as a performer? Is it that moment with the audience? Do you ever get amazed at the trick itself?

A: I’m amazed all the time. I think that’s why I love it so much. My act is constantly growing and changing, and I’m always adding new illusions or new smaller pieces, just because I love performing it.

Q: Do you have a favorite illusion in “Masters of Illusion?”

A: One of my favorites I created this when I was working on a cruise ship about seven years ago. I make a full-sized helicopter appear onstage. And, the stage is fully lit. And, it’s away from all curtains and backdrops. And, it happens so fast that I love performing it because just the gasp from the audience.

They’re absolutely amazed. When you hear 1,500 people go, “Aah.” I love that moment every time in the show.

Q: David Copperfield once told me there are only seven pieces of magic. You know, you’re familiar with the seven. So, things appear, things disappear, things float, things fall, whatever the seven are. Can a magician go past seven? Is there something that hasn’t yet been done?

A: No. I think those are the seven things, and they’re all gonna be some kind of variation on that. It’s making things appear, disappear, transpositions. Like a mutilation, cutting something and restoring it. A mind reading, is basically one thing. Illusion is sort of luckier because what we can do, even though we might be sawing a girl in half — we can maybe do two or three different versions of that in one show that look completely different.

Q: What do you think is the future of magic?

A: That’s a good question. Technology is changing But you know what, I’ve read books in the 1950s, where they said: “Technology’s changing, it’s gonna destroy magic.” But it still hasn’t. I think magicians are always on the edge of technology and using it to produce a better effect. There is no substitute for sleight-of-hand. When I work — besides doing “Masters of Illusion” I’ll go out on a cruise ship and I’ll do a show for a 1,200-seat theater with a deck of cards for an hour, and get a standing ovation every single time. People can just sit there and realize that there is no trick — just pure skill. So, that will never change. If you can look at the stuff David Blaine does, you know he pushes the envelope all of the time, and I think there’s always gonna be magicians doing that.

Q: Is it tougher to do sleight-of-hand with cards than it is to do illusions?

A: They’re completely different things. Sleight-of-hand is pure skill with your hands, and then when you’re doing illusions it’s theater. You’re dealing with not only the mechanics of doing the trick, but you’re also dealing with assistants, and lighting, staging, costuming and choreography. So many different element go into that, so it’s apples and oranges. To the audience it’s all magic, but it’s just different skill sets.

Q: What do you think “Masters of Illusion” is going to do for magic on the Strip?

A: I think it’s gonna give tourists a different feel of a magic show. Instead of going to see one performer, they’ll get to see five performers in the same amount of time. The cast is going to rotate. Being one of the performers I don’t know exactly when people will come in and out of the show, but everyone is different. Everyone has their own specialty. Some people will be doing more sleight-of-hand. Some will be specializing more in comedy magic. There’s probably always going to be two illusionists, which I’ll be doing one of the illusionist roles, and there will probably be a second illusionist. Then a comedy magician, a sleight-of-hand person.

Q: Is it exciting to be back on the Strip with a show like this?

A: It really is. Vegas has changed. When I got here in 1993, it was a completely different game out here. It’s changed a lot since 1993, but I’m really looking forward to — instead of having to tour all over the country and all over the world — to actually be able to come home, sleep in my own bed for six months.

Q: Greg, is there one illusion that you’ve been working on for a year or more that you want to make happen, and it’s still confounding even you?

A: I’ve had so many illusions in my notebooks that I want to finally be able to sit down and finish, and I think this will give me an opportunity to do that. I had one that was almost ready to go to China, but we just didn’t get it done in time and I’m talking to Gabe Blackstone right now. Hopefully, it will go in the show here. It’s a great piece that’s never been seen anywhere before. So, it would be fun to do.

Actually I have two of those. One’s ready to go, and one’s not quite ready to go. So, that’s another advantage of being at home, I can get these projects that I’ve been working on for a long time ready to go, and now I have a venue to be able to put them in right away. One of them, it’ll be similar to the Houdini trunk trick, but it will be in a glass box, and there will be a lot of surprises involved in it.

Tickets are on sale now for “Masters of Illusion,” which will run nightly at Bally’s Wednesday through Monday starting Dec. 6.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
TOP NEWS
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Home Front Page Footer Listing